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26         HISTORY OF WESTERN EDUCATION

the subjects of instruction called for a different method of study.
The main concern was not practice, but theory, not the attainment
of the art of speech or even of life, but the quest for truth. For
this, the main thing was not the acquirement of a fixed body of
philosophical doctrines to be committed to memory, but the
employment of the dialectical method of Socrates for the discovery
of those fundamental ideas relating to man and the world in which>
according to Plato, is to be found the truth of things. The general
procedure of the school is illustrated by the published dialogues
of Plato. There we see the master taking up some theme and
developing it at length under the criticism of his students;
and we can picture to ourselves the students engaged either
under Plato's guidance or among themselves in a constant
succession of such discussions.

6. GREEK EDUCATIONAL THEORY

One of the most remarkable outcomes of the new education
was the development of explicit educational theory by Socrates
and his philosophical successors. Speaking generally, theorizing
about education is uncommon. Most nations and most ages
are content to educate without discussing the meaning of their
activities or reflecting on their methods, Indeed, there are only
three great periods of educational theory in the history of European
education. The first, and in many ways the greatest, was this
Greek period. The second followed on the Renaissance at the
end of the Middle Ages. The third was immediately before
and immediately after the French Revolution. All of these,
it is to be noted, are associated with times of upheaval and violent
change, when men were reaching out after new institutions and
looking to the right training of the young for the foundations of
social order. It is in such times that philosophy does its greatest
service to mankind by gathering up the wisdom of the disappearing
past and handing it on in the form of ideals for the generations
that are to come.                                                '

At the beginning of the Fourth Century Athens was passing
through a time of crisis. The coming of the sophists with their
freer views of life had helped to loosen all the ordinary social
bonds. Men were no longer content to take law and authority
for granted either in politics or in religion, and there was a